I’ve written my share of teardown articles before, but this is my first for a device aimed at the medical market. If you’re not familiar with the term, a teardown is an analysis of the design of a shipping-end product—a slim touchscreen terminal, in this case. It’s done by literally taking the device apart and closely examining the components, then conducting extensive interviews with the team that designed the device.
Questions include: Why did you choose these components? In retrospect, was it the right choice? Why did you choose the operating system (OS) you did? Would you have done anything differently if you had a bigger budget or more time to work on the design?
The Advantech HIT-W121 terminal made for an interesting teardown because it shares many of the same characteristics of a traditional computing platform, yet it needs a few extra bells and whistles to be appropriate for medical applications. The design is sleek, with no bezel used in the front-panel assembly—even when integrating the touchscreen with the LCD. This makes the product easier to clean.
It has an 11.6-in. single-surface touchscreen display; is powered by an Intel Atom D510 microprocessor; supports Windows, Android, and Linux OSs; and is built with a compact, VESA-mountable form factor. The 1.6-GHz D510 microprocessor contains dual cores. Advantech is looking at a similar microprocessor, the N450, but that will likely be held for future generations.
“All of our medical products are based on Intel microprocessors because that’s what our customers prefer,” says Joseph Chung, a product manager at Advantech. “And from our perspective, it’s still easier to work with Intel. Because we are one of their premier partners, we have one of the early access kits, and the newer designs will be easier for us as compared to something like AMD. Basically, the choice comes down to the maturity of the processor and the amount of support we get from Intel.”
Customers, he says, are also familiar with Intel, thanks to the company’s aggressive marketing.
“Whenever they launch a new product, everyone knows about it and wants it in their product,” Chung says. “Also, the customer’s engineers have been using Intel for a long time.”
Advantech has designed some of its products with ARM-based processors, but the company feels Intel products provide the horsepower it needs, especially in the medical sector. This particular product was developed in Taiwan, where Advantech houses one of its design facilities. The HIT-W121 was developed over about nine months, including all the certification and debugging.
Besides the D510 CPU, another key component is the processor’s companion chip, or I/O hub, the ICH8. The part’s functions include support for PCI Express and local bus, ACPI power management, and enhanced DMA. It is also available with up to 10 USB ports, as well as support for high-definition audio and a Gigabit Ethernet controller.
Other features of note are the compact flash memory, medical power adapter, and a touchscreen with true widescreen LCD, which is a key differentiator for this product. The touchscreen controller comes from a vendor in Taiwan.
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About the author
Richard Nass is the director of content for UBM Canon’s medical device brands, including MED.
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